Some Numbers to Know as the Bulls Try to Make the Most of Their Final 10 Games

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Some Numbers to Know as the Bulls Try to Make the Most of Their Final 10 Games

Chicago Bulls

Ten more games separate the Chicago Bulls from the end of a rollercoaster season. The question now is whether they can continue their impressive play into the postseason or whether they’ll plummet back down to Earth, vomiting up all their recent good fortune along the way.

As I think about what they’ll need to accomplish to play beyond April 9, a handful of numbers come to mind. I decided to jot some of those down. Enjoy!

1.5 Games

The Chicago Bulls have built themselves a cushion, but it isn’t as fluffy as they’d like.

This recent 8-5 stretch has expanded their lead over the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers to 1.5 games. The good news is that Tankathon currently gives Chicago the 10th-easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA. Comparatively, Washington has the 17th-toughest while Indiana has the 4th-toughest.

The bad news is that we’ve seen the Bulls struggle – mightily – to take care of lesser opponents all season. Not to mention, they have just a 14-21 record on the road and six of their final 10 will be on the opposing team’s court. More specifically, the team’s next three will be on the road and out West. The Bulls will first matchup with the Trail Blazers in Portland before playing the Lakers and Clippers – two teams in the thick of a tight Western Conference seeding race – in Los Angeles.

If Chicago wants to officially lock in a Play-In Tournament seed, they’re going to have to make it through this final West road trip without falling apart. Fingers crossed.

28.8 Points Per Game

Zach LaVine has averaged 28.8 points since the All-Star break. Even more impressive, he’s done that while shooting 53.4 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from behind the arc, and 90.0 percent at the free throw line.

Overall, the two-time All-Star has scored the 4th-most points in the NBA over the last 13 games, placing him behind only Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, and Joel Embiid.

The fact of the matter is that it’s not a coincidence we see these stats coincide with the Bulls’ 8-5 stretch. As good as DeMar DeRozan has been for Chicago, there is another level this team reaches when LaVine is in full attack mode and leading the team in FGAs.

Not only does LaVine’s transition work and long-range shotmaking add another layer to the Bulls’ offense, but his ability to get downhill can really open things up for his teammates. Indeed, we’ve seen him dish at least 5.0 assists in five of his last six games, as his ability to keep the ball moving around the horn has helped Chicago move their disjointed offense into the top half of the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls need LaVine to continue playing with a sense of urgency and confidence to end this regular season on a high note. And this has only become that much more necessary as DeMar DeRozan deals with a re-aggravated quad strain. As I’ve always said, this group will only go as far as he takes them, so it’s time for their max player to finish strong.

5.3 Net Rating

Since the All-Star break, the Bulls have held a 5.3 net rating, which happens to sit top-4 in the NBA. The 76ers, Bucks, and Cavaliers are the only teams to rank ahead of Chicago.

I don’t think anyone is going to sit here and say the Bulls are truly a top-4 team in the league, but this net rating does speak to what they must continue to do down the stretch. Playing high-effort, two-way basketball is pivotal. Whether it be shooting 60+ percent from the field and losing or forcing 20 TOVs and losing, we know how small the Bulls’ margin for error tends to be. They aren’t going to win by outscoring opponents like the Kings or locking down opponents like the Cavs. They need a truly balanced performance to play their most competitive basketball, and their ability to do just that in recent weeks is the primary reason they’ve jumped up the East standings.

The moment the Bulls start to play one-dimensional basketball is the moment they lose. Let’s hope they can continue to keep this Net Rating among the NBA’s best to close out the year.

19.5 Points Off Turnovers

I’m still amazed that a team with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic has a better defensive rating than an offensive rating.

To the Bulls’ credit, though, they have managed to turn themselves into a real defensive threat. We just saw them hold the NBA’s best offense since mid-February (the 76ers) to just 42.2 percent shooting. And that was without Alex Caruso on the floor!

Head coach Billy Donovan deserves a lot of praise for this defensive turnaround, as does the locker room presence of buyout guard Patrick Beverley. The team is scrambling to close out on open shooters, throwing their hands into passing lanes, and consistently rotating with purpose. They’ve seemingly developed a newfound trust for one another on that end of the floor, and it’s something that must continue if they want any chance at making it out of the Play-In Tournament alive.

It’s also something that has helped them on the offensive end of the floor, as well. The Bulls have averaged the 6th-most steals per game (8.2) since the All-Star break and the second-most deflection per game (16.7). This has helped them average 19.5 points off turnovers during this stretch, which is 4th in the NBA.

The Bulls have generated some of their best offense in transition dating back to last season. Doubling down on that ability to close out this season would be clutch.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.